Intelligence Law School - Course 1: Lesson 5.5.1 Judicial Branch Rules Generally

««« Previous Lesson  |  Next Lesson »»»


5.5 Court Rules

5.5.1 Judicial Branch Rules Generally

Lecture Audio

Annotated Lecture Transcript

5.5.1 Judicial Branch Rules Generally

The Supreme Court sits at the head of the Judicial Branch, but there are many lower courts as well as associated staff members who perform a multiplicity of functions that are integral to the fulfillment of the Court’s judicial duties under Article III.

As with any administrative bureaucracy, the Supreme Court and lower organs within the Judicial Branch must occasionally promulgate rules to govern how their functions are performed.

This is to ensure proper administration of the judicial power of the United States throughout all levels of the federal judiciary.

Though the power to issue court rules seems to be an indispensible implied power of the judiciary, courts have no constitutional power to enact new laws; so, when court rules affect substantive legal rights, the actual power of courts to promulgate them comes from Congress through an enabling statute.[1]


There are two types of judicial rules that are most relevant to the study of intelligence law:

Ø  Federal Rules of Practice, Procedure, and Evidence; and

Ø  Court Rules.



[1] See Congressional Research Serv., The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, Article III, S. Doc. No. 108-17 (2002), available at (“Among the incidental powers of courts is that of making all necessary rules governing their process and practice and for the orderly conduct of their business. However, this power too is derived from the statutes and cannot go beyond them. The landmark case is Wayman v. Southard, [23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 1 (1825)] which sustained the validity of the Process Acts of 1789 and 1792 as a valid exercise of authority under the necessary and proper clause. Although Chief Justice Marshall regarded the rule-making power as essentially legislative in nature, he ruled that Congress could delegate to the courts the power to vary minor regulations in the outlines marked out by the statute. Fifty-seven years later, in Fink v. O’Neil, [106 U.S. 272, 280 (1882)] in which the United States sought to enforce by summary process the payment of a debt, the Supreme Court ruled that under the process acts the law of Wisconsin was the law of the United States, and hence the Government was required to bring a suit, obtain a judgment, and cause execution to issue. Justice Matthews for a unanimous Court declared that the courts have ‘‘no inherent authority to take any one of these steps, except as it may have been conferred by the legislative department; for they can exercise no jurisdiction, except as the law confers and limits it.’’ Conceding, in 1934, the limited competence of legislative bodies to establish a comprehensive system of court procedure, and acknowledging the inherent power of courts to regulate the conduct of their business, Congress authorized the Supreme Court to prescribe rules for the lower federal courts not inconsistent with the Constitution and statutes. Their operation being restricted, in conformity with the proviso attached to the congressional authorization, to matters of pleading and practice, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure thus judicially promulgated neither affect the substantive rights of litigants nor alter the jurisdiction of federal courts and the venue of actions therein and, thus circumscribed, have been upheld as valid.”) (most internal footnotes omitted).


© 2012 David Alan Jordan. All rights reserved.